Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bonhams & Butterfields' First Auction Dedicated to Opals

Bonhams & Butterfields has announced The Nature of Opals sale to be held on November 10 in San Francisco. The sale will be among the first public auctions in the United States devoted to opals as well as the first dedicated offering in this category for Bonhams & Butterfields. Featured highlights will include a diverse group of high quality and distinctive jewelry, unmounted stones, mineral specimens, lapidary works of art, decorative objects, décor and opalized fossils, made from the opulent gem.
All of nature's grandeur appears to be reflected within the diverse richness of opals. Elements such as fire, water, air and sea are mirrored within each opulent gem. Opal has a non-crystalline nature and is composed of microscopic silica spheres in a hexagonal lattice matrix. The complex order of these spheres gives the gem its multifaceted coloring and unique personality.

Opals range in hue from clear, such as Mexican Fire Opals to be offered during the November auction, through red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, brown, and black. Commonly referred to as "opalising," the continually changing play of colors, boasts radiant intensity within each color variation. Opals can be found at locations around the globe including Virgin Valley, Nevada; United States; Mexico; Brazil; Peru; Europe; Ethiopia and Australia, where the item is considered is the national gemstone. Examples from all of these localities will be on offer in this auction.

Highlighting the exceptional and educational selection is a stunning opal and 18K gold Presentation Box by famed lapidary artist, Manfred Wild of Idar-Oberstein, Germany (est. $100,000 - 150,000). Set with a large 224.24-carat oval cabochon of white opal from Coober Pedy, Australia, the piece also contains black matrix opal that has been used to create the inset panels.

The jewelry section features the work of several notable designers and includes a flaming tangerine-red; Mexican Fire Opal and diamond necklace, mounted in 18K yellow gold, comprised of 40 opal cabochons and 11.3-carats of diamonds (est. $20,000-30,000) with a matching pair of earrings (est. $2,500-3,500); a black opal and cultured pearl necklace by renowned Boston jewelry designer, Angela Conty (est. $10,000- 15,000); a figure of a bear constructed of highly sought after white Australian opals in a diamond-set brooch mount (est. $13,000-15,000); an Andamooka opal carving of Buddha (est. 2,500-3,500); a brilliant pendant constructed of 12.25-carats of opals surrounded by 40 diamonds (est. $5,500-6,500) and a subtly colored opal flower brooch (est. $2,8003,250), among others.

Opalized wood is also represented within the sale by a unique example of a large tree limb in which the cellular structure of the tree has been replaced by opalization. Weighing in at a hefty 85 lbs, the extraordinary specimen from Koroit, Queensland, Australia, measures approximately five feet long and is estimated to bring $35,000-45,000. Opalized fossils known to originate in Coober Pedy, Australia will also be featured in the November sale. Highlights will include a rare opalized jawbone section of the Cretaceous sea creature Pleiosaur, contour polished on one face to reveal the brilliant spectral play-of-color within (est. $24,000- 28,000).

"The opal is highly sought after by connoisseurs, gemstone and jewelry collectors for its unique optical properties. The market for the gem remains strong and the exceptional examples, such as those featured in the November auction, are extremely rare," said Claudia Florian G.J.G., Co-Consulting Director, Natural History, who is curating the auction.

Bonhams & Butterfields is a leader in the Natural History marketplace, able to present a variety of jewelry, gemstones, fossils and minerals at impressive prices. As recently as June 2008, the firm sold perhaps the most famous and recognizable opal in the world - the "Flame Queen" - for $120,000. Extraordinary not only for its large size (263.18-carats), but also for its unusual shape and color pattern, the "Flame Queen" was one of only a handful of large museum-quality opals known, even fewer have ever been offered at public auction.

Exhibitions will continue throughout the fall in celebration of the opal as the birthstone for the month of October. Highlight previews will be held at the firm's salesrooms across the United States, with the tour culminating in a full a preview and auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco on November 10.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece (Gemstones Included)

At the Onassis Cultural Center New York City through January 3, 2011

The age-old figures of Herakles, Odysseus, Achilles and Helen continue to fire the popular imagination today-and so does the concept of heroes, which began with the stories and images of these and other fabled Greek characters. Yet the very word "hero" has a different meaning in our society than it did in an ancient Greek world that seemed, to its people, to be alive with Greek heroes and heroines.

To provide a better understanding of the lives, fates and meanings of the first heroes and heroines, to explore the inherent human need for heroes and to give audiences an opportunity to measure their own ideas of heroes against the ideas represented by a wealth of extraordinary Classical Greek artworks, the Onassis Cultural Center in Midtown Manhattan presents the exhibition Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece.

Heroes brings together approximately 100 exceptional artworks focusing on the Archaic, Classical and the Hellenistic period, drawn from collections in the United States and Europe. Through these objects, which range from large-scale architectural sculptures to beautifully decorated pottery and miniature carved gemstones, the exhibition explores how the ancient Greek heroes were understood and casts light on the continuing human need for heroes today.

The exhibition has been organized by the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, in cooperation with the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, the San Diego Museum of Art and the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA).


Rare examples of stones from the legendary mines of Goldconda, Kashmir, and Muzo will be offered in Christie’s Jewels: The Geneva Sale to be held on November 17.

The Indian mines of Golconda are considered legendary by gem connoisseurs. The quality of the diamonds discovered in those mines is so outstanding that they have been compared to 'pools of crystal water' by the 17th Century French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Mining activities in the Golconda area reached their climax in the mid 1600s. Over the years the mines yielded the greatest historical diamonds of India, such as the Koh-I-Noor, now part of the Crown Jewels of England, the Agra and the Hope. The mines were almost depleted in the mid 18th Century and as a result large diamonds with this famed provenance and distinction are seldom encountered today. Christie’s has now the privelege to offer a unique pear-shaped Golconda diamond weighing 26.17 carats, D colour, Internally Flawless clarity, Type IIa. This antique pear-shaped diamond, suspended form a diamond briolette chain, is estimated at $3,000,000-5,000,000.

From central India Golconda the sale will move North to the mountains of Kashmir where the most beautiful sapphires were mined in the late 19th Century. Their rich blue color, with a mesmerizing velvety quality, and their rarity, especially above 10 carats, commands a much higher price than all other sapphires. To find a superb Kashmir such as the superb unmounted cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire of 19.94 carats is excessively rare, especially because it displays an incredibly rich saturation and velvety blue color spared from any form of enhancement (estimate $1,000,000-1,500,000).

From Kashmir to South America: the history of the legendary mines of Muzo began with the discovery of the New World by the Spanish conquerors in the early 16th Century. Certainly the most sought after, emeralds from the Muzo mines are highly valued because of their famous saturated pure green to slightly bluish green hue, their size and their clarity. Since their discovery by the Spanish, the Muzo mines have supplied exceptional emeralds which now adorn the crown jewels of most

Royal collections around the world. Unlike the mines of Golconda and Kashmir, which are now depleted, Muzo still yields to this day high quality gemstones, though very few displaying the purity and intense saturation of the exceptional square-cut offered in November: an exceptional square-cut 'Muzo' emerald weighing 9.27 carats, highly transparent pure crystal, free of any form of enhancement, estimated at $380,000-580,000.

In November 2009, Texma, of which Muzo International is the marketing and trading arm, was awarded exclusive mining rights to the Muzo mines. Muzo international is unique in the emerald business in that they have complete control of mine to market, establishing the concept of traceability for every gem. This ensures that both the emeralds and the methods by which they have been processed are of the highest quality and ethical standards. From a large rough emerald weighing
86.99 carats, only 3 polished emeralds were cut to obtain perfect stones: a 9.27 carats rectangular-cut, a 0.28 carats circular-cut and a 0.48 carats heart-shaped.

The total yield was very low at only 11.54% of the total rough and no expense was spared in this quest for perfection. Muzo International, also have a zero resin/polymers policy and only non-permanent oils are used to treat stones when necessary, dispelling any concerns with regards to potentially detrimental fillers.Unlike the mines of Golconda and Kashmir, which are now depleted, Muzo still yields to this day high quality gemstones, though very few displaying the purity and intense saturation of the exceptional square-cut being offered in Christie’s sale.

Two Indian Diamond “Sarpechs” from Royal Collections, each estimated at $1,000,000-1,500,000, evoke the magnificence of the Maharajas’ lifestyle. The sarpech (Hindi for ‘head feather’), considered the ultimate symbol of Indian royalty and sometimes used as a reward for exceptional service, was a turban ornament. It was worn almost exclusively by the Moghul emperors, Indian princes and their immediate family. After Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1857, no Indian Prince was allowed to wear a crown, which explains the emergence of highly elaborate and jewelled sarpechs as a symbol of royalty.

The first example is one of the most impressive diamond sarpechs of Royal provenance ever offered at auction, with a total diamond weight of approximately 152 carats. The second sarpech, coming from another Royal Collection, is set with high quality emeralds and diamonds of impressive sizes, ranging from approximately 15.16 to 7.87 carats.

One of the most sophisticated pieces with exceptional Imperial provenance is the superb diamond necklace created by René Boivin in 1935 for the late Empress Nam Ph'u'ong of Vietnam, estimated at $100,000-150,000. Marie-Thérèse Nguyen Huu Thi Lan (pictured below) was born in 1914 in what was then the French colony of Cochinchina.

The daughter of a wealthy merchant, she was sent to France at the age of twelve, to study at the famous catholic school 'Couvent des Oiseaux'. Upon her return to Vietnam, Mariette as she was best known, met the future Emperor Bao Dai. They married in 1934, and she was named Empress Nam Ph'u'ong in 1945.

Due to her education, the Empress had a strong attachment to French culture. The Imperial couple soon became important clients of the famous jeweler René Boivin, from who they commissioned in 1935 five tiaras, four rings and five pairs of earrings. This included the present diamond necklace which could originally be worn also as a tiara. René Boivin was an exceptionally avant-garde jeweler, established in Paris, who worked for an exclusive international clientele. He rarely produced all diamond-set jewels of this importance, and the sale in November offers a rare opportunity to own a unique jewel bearing the exclusive Boivin signature.

After her husband’s abdication, the Empress and her five children moved to France. She separated from the Emperor in 1955 and spent a peaceful and discreet life until her death in 1963. The Empress always remained faithful to her country, where her devotion, beauty, great sense of style and elegance makes her much loved and admired to this day.

Among the period jewelry is an antique ruby and diamond necklace, circa 1890, from the property of a Lady of Title, set with 18 beautiful Burmese rubies Of classical cluster design, this necklace displays the best unheated, highly saturated and well matched Burma rubies $300,000-400,000).

The sale also includes some rare Art Nouveau pieces such as a delicate and rare enamelled and gold fringe necklace by iconic jeweler René Lalique $60,000- 80,000. Signed by Lucien Gaillard, two rings and a gold necklace are again very representative of the Art Nouveau movement. Less prolific than René Lalique, Lucien Gaillard is one of the most admired jewelers of the period who won numerous awards for his innovation in craftsmanship.

Another highlight of the auction is a magnificent and extremely rare diamond sautoir by Cartier, a striking example of the Art Deco craftsmanship of the French jeweler (estimate: $800,000- 1,200,000.) Very few of these important diamond sautoirs survived the change of fashions, as diamonds were often reset to adapt to changing styles. To have a sautoir of this importance, still centrally set with a 12.70 carat brilliant-cut diamond, is therefore a true rarity.

The auction also features an exceptional group of 14 Boivin jewels, which remain just as fashionable and wearable today as they were when they were first created. The ruby and amethyst starfish brooch for example, is a quintessential Boivin design, estimated at $160,000- 200,000. Van Cleef & Arpels has been since their foundation in 1906 one of the most sought-after jewelry houses. Renowned for their original designs, choice of high quality stones as well as their impeccable craftsmanship, which to this day remains a Van Cleef & Arpels signature, they are represented in the sale by a group of forty-three jewels. Ranging from the iconic and charming “Lion Ebouriffé” brooch to an important rectangular-cut diamond ring of 13.43 carats, F color, VS1 potentially internally flawless clarity, the selection also features a mystery-set ruby and diamond “Pavot” brooch with an estimate of $150,000-250,000.

Christie’s Geneva remains true to its tradition of offering the most important diamonds and gemstones at auction. One of the highlights is an important oval-shaped diamond ring weighing 20.54 carats, D color, VVS1, Excellent polish and symmetry, potentially Internally Flawless, estimated at $1,800,000-2,500,000 (illustrated left). Also noteworthy are a brilliant-cut diamond ring weighing 13.88 carats, E color, Flawless clarity, estimate and a rectangular-cut Fancy Intense Orangy-Pink diamond weighing 12.30 carats, estimate $1,300,000-1,500,000. The market for natural pearls, which have become a true rarity, remains as strong as ever and Christie’s will have impressive pearl jewels on offer such as a five-strand natural pearl necklace (estimate $350,000- 500,000) and an important antique diamond and pearl brooch, dated 1870 estimated at $200,000-300,000.

$8,000,000 I-Phone

British luxury jeweler Stuart Hughes is known for creating mobile phones, gaming systems and iPads crafted from solid gold. Now he is offering what he is calling the world's most expensive iPhone. The iPhone 4 "Diamond Rose" is priced at 5 million British pounds, or about $8 million.

The phone features a bezel covered with approximately 500 diamonds totaling over 100 carats. In addition, the reverse side features 53 diamonds that form Apple's logo. The phone's main navigation button is platinum and holds a single 7.4-carat pink diamond.

The handset also comes with an 8-carat diamond that can be switched to replace the 7.4-carat pink stone and the phone is housed in a granite chest lined with leather.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


A rare Commemorative Jewelled Silver-Gilt Presentation Quill Pen created in 1867 by the Sazikov Firm in St. Petersburg will be offered by Bonhams in the Russian Sale on December 1 It is estimated to sell for £80,000 – 100,000 or $125,749-158,429.

Formed as a quill, encrusted with seed pearls and emeralds, this extraordinary pen was presented on 13th June, 1867 to Prince Aleksander Gorchakov by the wives of St. Petersburg aristocrats to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The six dates engraved on the reverse side mark the ascending steps in the remarkable career of a legendary diplomat, statesman and professional politician.

As one of the most powerful foreign ministers in Europe, Gorchakov took part in every important diplomatic negotiation, treaty and foreign policy initiative that shaped Russia’s standing in European politics during the second half of the 19th  century. Deeply committed to protecting Russia’s foreign interests, Gorchakov devoted his entire life to raising the prestige of Russia on the international arena. He has an enduring reputation as one of the most influential and respected diplomats of the 19th century.

This jeweled token of appreciation, decorated with Gorchakov’s monogram under the princely crown and fitted in the original box with the family crest, symbolized many extraordinary achievements of a remarkable Russian statesman.    

Upcoming Jewelry and Costume Exhibitions and Events

SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) will hold its Annual Conference May 26-29, 2011 in Seattle, WA.
Enamelis Alumnus
Goldesberry Gallery
Houston, TX
Through November 27

Pat Tseng: Emblems of Etheral Grace
Chinese Culture Center
San Francisco, CA
Through January 8, 2011

A Lifelong Affair with Textiles
Mingei International Museum
San Diego, CA
Through April 3, 2011

Vanishing Traditions
Design Museum at the University of California
Davis, CA
Through December 3

Mao to Now: Chinese Fashion from 1949 to the Present
Goldstein Museum of Design
St. Paul, MN
Through January 17, 2011

Material World: Textiles and Dresses from the Collection
Museum of International Folk Art
Santa Fe, NM
Through September 11, 2011

L’Art de La Joaillerie: A Series of Three Lunch-Time Lectures
French Culutural Center
Boston, MA

French Jewelry from Renaissance to Modernity
November 10

Memoirs of a French Jeweler
December 8

Art Nouveau Jewelry from a Private Collection
January 19, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Madoff Jewels to be Auctioned


The diamond ring once owned by Ruth and Bernie Madoff is scheduled to be sold at auction by the US Marshall’s Service as well as numerous other pieces of fine jewelry once owned by the pair.
The ring is a 10.54 cts. emerald-cut diamond—VS2 in clarity and F in color—the center stone in a handmade platinum mounting with two baguette diamonds with a total weight of .90 cts. flanking each side. The center stone bears the certificate No. 8376741 from the Gemological Institute of America.
More than 400 pieces of personal property, including the fine jewelry, will be sold during a live and online auction in New York City held on November 13.

The property was forfeited and seized in connection with the criminal prosecution of Bernard L. Madoff by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Proceeds will be deposited into the United States Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Fund to compensate the victims of the multi-billion dollar fraud.


The Sobral Retail shop at 412 W. Broadway, in the Soho area of New York City, celebrated its first anniversary on October 14th. An ever smiling Sobral flew in from Rio de Janeiro to share in the festivities. The Sobral family, including both relatives and those associated with the enterprise, happily mingled with Sobral devotees to a Latin beat, sharing champagne and hors d’oeuvres while enjoying the gleaming showcases filled with the Sobral oeuvre—jewelry and objects fashioned from resin. Sobral took the occasion to launch his latest line, created in homage to Kandinsky. To view the rest of the line go to Sobral’s work will be featured in an article in an upcoming issue of Adornment.


ASJRA is going to sponsor an exhibition at the Forbes Gallery, New York City from April 9-June 25, 2011 entitled "Jewelry Artists of the Hudson Valley".

Elyse Zorn Karlin, ASJRA co-director, will be the guest curator for the exhibition which will include the work of Jennifer Trask, Tom Herman, Jamie Bennett, Pat Flynn, Sergey Jivetin and several other artists.

A special tour of the exhibition will be offered to ASJRA members... the date is yet to be determined.
We are looking for additional sponsors for the exhibition to help underwrite some of the associated costs. If you know any company that might be interested in being a sponsor please pass the information on to them. Sponsors will have their names displayed prominently in the exhibition and at the opening reception. We are seeking small donations from several companies.